Some people are naturalists – they prefer looking to foods and herbs that can help to prevent and treat ailments rather than depending on medicine and expensive therapies.

In the west, we lost sight of many natural and traditional therapies, and instead made way treatments that could be tested in a laboratory. These happened to be, in some cases, treatments that pharmaceutical companies had an interest in financing (this is now regulated, by the way).

However, as we gain more interest in learning about the role of diets, food and food components in promoting overall health and preventing illness, research is also beginning to reflect how foods can have beneficial effects on preventing and treating illness.

The case isn’t any different for pain. There are plenty of foods that can help to alleviate chronic and acute pain. While there are several beneficial foods that are difficult to come across, our intention is not to have you seeking out expensive foods in obscure health food stores. There are plenty of foods, many of which you might already by buying, that may help to alleviate pain when eaten regularly.

Here are five foods, which you probably already have in your pantry, that can help to ease pain.


Ginger comes up repeatedly when considering food-based therapy for a range of illnesses. It isn’t left out of the game for pain, either. Multiple studies have shown that ginger is as effective as pain medications in alleviating menstrual pain. Other studies show that it is also effective for osteoarthritis and rheumatic joint pain.

Virgin Olive oil

Virgin olive oil contains a compound called oleocanthal, which research shows works like ibuprofen to help relieve pain. It also contains lubricin, which is a compound that supports joint and cartilage health. Both of these elements are good news for people looking for natural support for joint pain.



For centuries, different cultures around the world have known of the many health properties of turmeric. While researchers have yet to carry out large-scale clinical studies, turmeric demonstrates important anti-inflammatory properties that may help alleviate joint pain, like that felt in people with arthritis.


Blueberries and other berries are packed with antioxidants that can help to fight inflammation and relieve pain. One study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that an improved antioxidant profile helped to improve range of motion and reduce pain. Berries are also foods promoted in an anti-inflammatory diet.


Your grandmother likely prescribed mint tea after a big meal or if you had an upset stomach. That wasn’t just an old wives’ tale. In fact, mint is commonly used as a effective digestive aide. It has calming and numbing effects, so it can be used to treat headaches, nausea, diarrhea, menstrual cramps and flatulence.

Research shows that the pain-reducing properties of mint go even further; one study with 57 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) found that taking peppermint oil for 4 weeks improved abdominal symptoms, including bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation or gas.


Foods naturally contain many compounds that can support your health. It is important to note that many scientific studies were carried out with purified extract forms of each of the foods mentioned above, and prescribed as medical treatments. However, consuming the foods mentioned above that contain the active compounds extracted for the studies as part of your diet could help to support an overall pain therapy, with supervision from your health specialist.

The five foods mentioned above are all part of the solution, but you also need to make sure you are eliminating foods that could be promoting inflammation and pain, like processed foods, refined sugar and sodium. Talk to your doctor about what other lifestyle choices you could be making to help alleviate pain.

Sasha deBeausset is a nutritional anthropologist and licensed nutritionist with a B.A. from Tufts University and a M.Sc. in Food and Nutrition from the University of San Carlos. She has been awarded for her academic writing and research, and she has been blogging on food, health, and nutrition for over five years. Sasha is passionate about contributing to making quality and research-based information available freely on the web so people can inform themselves and make better decisions for their health.


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